Posted By: May 16, 2015

Patrick Murphy. Irish News ( Belfast). Saturday, May 16, 2015
NATIONALIST Ireland has reacted to David Cameron’s referendum on EU membership with shock, horror and indignation. And rightly so – how dare a British prime minister resort to democracy to address an issue with his electorate.

One of the more mysterious aspects of new Irish nationalism is that it tolerates no criticism of the European Union, which is now viewed with the GAA and the Good Friday Agreement as a sort of sacrosanct holy trinity, above and beyond reproach.

So what will be the outcome of Britain’s referendum, which is now likely to be held next year and, on the centenary of 1916, how will we explain Irish nationalist opposition to the concept of greater national sovereignty? The first question is much easier to answer than the second. David Cameron has no desire to withdraw Britain from the EU. Few in his party disagree with the original concept of a European common market. However, many Conservatives oppose the creation of unified political, social, economic and legal systems as the foundation for a single European state.

They argue that the process undermines British sovereignty. (It also undermines Irish sovereignty, but Irish nationalism appears to have taken the afternoon off to go the pub.) This desire for independence is reflected in Britain’s refusal to join the faltering Euro currency – and who can argue against that decision?

However, Cameron’s reasoned argument is often contaminated by racist support, which advocates the free movement of goods, but not the free movement of people to manufacture them.

It is also weakened by Britain’s desire to ditch the European Convention on Human Rights, to allow more repressive legislation against what the British media call radicalised Islamists. (They tend not to point out that Britain’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan helped to create the problem.)

Bearing in mind these two points, what exactly is wrong with Britain seeking to regain greater political and legal independence, while retaining the original European concept of a common market? Why must economic union mean political union? Can anyone in Ireland, for example, make a reasoned argument for a single European state?

No, you cannot hide behind the belief that the United States of Europe (USE) is not going to happen. It already has a passport, a flag, a single currency and an anthem. The good news is that future generations of Irish people can join the new USE army, to once again fight alongside brave little Belgians, by invading brave little Yemen or wherever.

You may argue that you do not like the idea of a single European state, but you wish to defend the principle on the basis that Ireland has received significant funds from the EU, for example, in road building.

This is an inspiring argument, which suggests that, like everything in this country, political independence has a price. It is, of course, a perfectly valid view, with just one snag. If Irish nationalism can be bought, why celebrate the 1916 centenary next year?

Surely we should all march in protest against the Proclamation’s failure to offer to stop the Rising in exchange for Britain’s building better Irish roads? (“The Rising has been cancelled in view of the new fishing quotas for Ireland.”)

So does Irish nationalism support EU membership just for the money? Or can it be explained by that embarrassing, forelock-touching, Irish desire to be liked by foreigners, ranging from royalty to golfers? (You know the sort of thing: we paint derelict buildings to impress visitors, but let them decay when the visitors leave.)

Maybe it has all been inspired by a misplaced sense of Catholic loyalty to the Treaty of Rome, although even the Pope recently criticised the EU as aloof and self-absorbed.

Or perhaps northern nationalism’s plodding towards a single European state can be exemplified by the SDLP’s blind love for the EU, which it claims “has allowed for a cultural enrichment” here.

Sinn Féin argues that EU decisionmaking should be more transparent and accountable. Fine sentiments – but why not oppose the transferof sovereign powers from Dublin to Berlin, particularly in view of the European Central Bank’s role in fuelling the Republic’s economic collapse?

Rather than a blanket opposition to Cameron’s sham plan to leave the EU, Sinn Féin might more sensibly wait to see what pre-referendum concessions Britain negotiates and then demand those same conditions for Ireland.

That would give the next Dáil increased sovereignty over the destiny of the Irish people and maintain a greater degree of Irish economic unity. Rather than dressing up in period costume, it would also appear to be a more fitting way to commemorate 1916.